Verbal Handoffs

There is an art and a learnable skill to describing a situation in a clear, concise manner to someone who has just arrived to the scene, whether it is another medic, a Zendo volunteer, or someone from another department.
Deliver a brief narrative that gives them a sense of what’s going on. Get to the point quickly and clearly, in a few good sharp sentences. Think of it as speaking in bullet points rather than in paragraphs:

  • Who is the participant?
  • Why they’re there: what’s the chief complaint?
  • What condition did you find them in? How are they doing now?
  • What kind of care have they received so far?
  • Do they have any known immediate needs?
  • Is there anything else to be aware of?
  • relevant backstory
  • medical conditions
  • violent tendencies
  • what/where is their camp?
  • Names and location of supportive campmates / friends?


This is Bobby. Bobby is 39 years old.
He was brought in this afternoon at three o’clock by his friend Joe.
He thinks he’s taken some mushrooms about five hours ago.
He’s been having a pretty intense experience, but has calmed down and has been sleeping for about 20 minutes.
We gave him some water and a crackers.
His friend says they’re camped near Bronners, and that he’ll come back in about an hour to check in on him.
Be clear and to the point, like a radio transmission.

Be respectful. If you are doing the handoff within earshot of the participant, try to acknowledge their presence and include them as appropriate. Don’t talk over them as if they weren’t there or unable to understand.
Don’t dehumanize. No medicalese.